School choice movement marches forward, with state measures providing alternatives to government-run schools.
By Eileen Griffin
Parents are moving their children out of government-run schools and into education programs they choose.
This is a banner year for school choice and momentum is growing, The Federalist reports.
The forced COVID lockdowns revealed to parents that their children were taught leftist ideas and provided leftist learning materials. Parents discovered that school libraries were filled with books touting lifestyle choices in conflict with many people’s values and religion.
As parents became vocal, legislators listened and acted. In 2021, 12 states passed legislation in support of parental choice. From 2020 to 2022 approximately 2 million students transferred to private, charter, or home-based school programs. To date, 42 states have passed, or are working to pass, some form of school choice.
The movement born out of awareness gained during the COVID lockdown continues to grow. More states legislators are passing policies supporting educational freedom and more parents are making whatever sacrifice they need to make to move their children out of government-run, union-controlled, schools.
“More than ever before, this year state leaders were able to reform the education system and reignite excellence,” wrote Allison Shuster and Laurie Todd-Smith, Ph.D., scholars at the America First Policy Institute. “2023 was the year of school choice, and the movement is only just beginning.”
Many of the most vocal advocates for educational freedom are Republican governors, including Governors as Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA), Ron DeSantis (R-FL), and Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-AR).
Despite the victories, challengesby opponents of school choice remain, largely coming from leadership in the Democratic party, Newsweek reports. School choice remains a “party-line” issue, with Democrats siding with teachers’ unions and Republicans siding with parents.
Gov. Josh Shapiro (D-PA) and Georgia state Rep. Mesha Mainor (D-Atlanta), were exceptions. But, after party pressure was exerted, Shapiro retreated from his support for school choice.
Unions attacked both Democrats for supporting school choice, resulting in Shapiro’s decision to back away. Only Mainor remained undaunted in her support for educational freedom.
As Heartland Daily News previously reported, Mainor said black children are suffering as test scores decline. Black children are not getting the attention they need with Democrats focused on social issues instead of real educational outcomes.
Georgia Democrats in the legislature and the teachers’ union establishment called for Mainor’s removal from office. Instead, she removed herself from the Democratic party.
“Real education reform requires lawmakers willing to represent the will of their constituents rather than the entrenched interests that now have a stranglehold on establishment Democrats,” wrote Jennifer Stefano, Executive Vice President of Commonwealth Foundation.
Democrats do not support educational reform like Republicans do, Stefano wrotewrote. Despite the support of Democrat voters, the Democrat leadership stands in support of the status quo.
A Gallup poll shows that among Americans across the political spectrum, confidence in government-run school systems is declining.
Confidence in public education has dropped from 41 percent in 2020 to 28 percent in 2023. Among Democrats, 43 percent say they have confidence in public schools. Only 14 percent of Republicans and 29 percent of Independents are confident the government-run schools are doing a good job.
The confidence in government-schools has been trending downward among Republicans for several years. Part of the divide comes from the philosophical differences regarding what should be taught and not taught in schools.
“Debate has also erupted at the national and local levels over school curricula touching on racism, gender theory and sexual orientation,” Lydia Saad wrote for Gallup. “Republican-sponsored legislation being passed or debated in numerous states to curtail such curricula has kept these issues at the forefront of party politics, with Florida providing the most prominent example.”
“At the same time that the radical sexual agenda proliferates in Los Angeles, the traditional subjects are being downplayed,” wrote Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network and a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute . “Per the 2022 state standardized tests, 40 percent of sixth-graders and 43 percent of seventh-graders meet grade-level standards in English. And just 19 percent of seventh-graders and 23 percent of eighth-graders are at grade level proficiency in math.”
Educational experts like Larry Sand advocate for educational freedom, encouraging parents to choose an educational program where they can have confidence their child will learn academic skills, not leftist ideology.
“Clearly, our institutions are failing us,” wrote Sand. “If your local school board and/or state doesn’t comport with your world view, please send your young one to a private school, or, better, home school. Your child’s future and the future of the country, in fact, rests on your shoulders.”